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Disappointing attendance for opening of Oak Tree meet

October 1, 2010 | 11:06 am

There was an on-track crowd of 4,279 Thursday night for the opening of the 22-day Oak Tree meeting at Hollywood Park, which is considered a disappointment in the first experiment trying night racing during autumn. Not even a concert after the races featuring the band Sugar Ray helped attendance.

Dyan Grealish, Hollywood Park's vice president of marketing and sales, said the attendance was not what the track had hoped for but she said the track "did everything we could humanly possible" to promote opening night. Last year, 17,239 attended Oak Tree's opening day at Santa Anita.

The meeting was originally scheduled for Santa Anita, but trainers and owners forced a last-minute change to Hollywood Park because of concerns over Santa Anita's synthetic surface. There also was a sizable drop in handle compared to last year. Hollywood Park's total handle was $4,524,976 compared to $7,632,645 last year at Santa Anita.

"We knew this was an experiment," said Sherwood Chillingworth, executive vice president at Oak Tree. "The horse racing board has been insisting on trying to do something to get younger people involved. It's hard to build the fan base with the younger group, but we're trying."

Hollywood Park is pleased with the advance ticket sales for Saturday's card that will feature unbeaten Zenyatta and four Grade I races. A crowd of more than 20,000 is anticipated.

-- Eric Sondheimer